On Today’s Show

All the Q2 fundraising numbers are in, Biden suggests a push-up contest against Trump, an update on that whole climate debate thing, and an update on who’s already in the September debates.


Show Transcript

Note: This is the speaking script for the show, so the audio as delivered will differ very slightly from the below. This script also does not include audio clips from third-party sources, or advertisements, which may appear at various points in the show.

All the Q2 fundraising numbers

Yesterday and into last night, all the primary candidates turned in their fundraising numbers for Q2—well, that is, those who announced their run prior to July 1st. That means that technically Joe Sestak, who officially filed paperwork on July 1st, and Tom Steyer, who did so on July 8th, both don’t have Q2 money to report.

Okay, strap yourselves in. As we already knew, Buttigieg, Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Harris lead the field in terms of money raised from donors in Q2. Their numbers haven’t changed, and they’re all doing just fine.

So there are lots of ways to look at these numbers. One of them is obvious—just, hey, how much money did people give the candidate in the second quarter of the year. That’s most of what we’ve talked about so far. The other big measure of a campaign’s viability is how much cash on hand it has—meaning, given all the money they’ve taken in and all the money they’ve spent, what’s left in the bank? And the final exmination has to do with donation size. So for all the money a candidate has raised, how much of it came from so-called “small-dollar donors” who gave less than $200 dollars, versus big-dollar donors who gave, you know, more. The reason we care about that is that there is $2,800 dollar cap on how much any individual can give to each candidate throughout the primary cycle, so if you have a bunch of donors who have already hit that cap, you can’t get any more money from them later in the primary.

Over at Politico, Beatrice Jin and Maggie Severns have a running tally of all of this. It’s a lot of math and a lot of detail, but their infographic up top tells a lot of the story. It’s a running measure three things: first, how much money came in overall for the quarter. In that number, they’re including both donations AND transfers that came in from other campaign funds—there are some candidates who still have money in Senate race funds or other places like that, and they are allowed to transfer that in, but have to label it as such.

The second thing Politico tracks is how much money the campaign SPENT in Q2, against what it brought in. And of course, the logical third thing is how much of a net gain or loss they showed—meaning, if they brought in more than they spent, they added money to their bank account. If not, they lost money overall. So I could run down every single candidate, but we’d be here all night, so I’m going to pick out a few stand-out candidates and review their numbers, plus talk about overall trends.

The most obvious trends here are the incredible disparity between the top five—that’s Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, Warren, and Harris—and everybody else. All of those five brought in substantially more than $10 million dollars, and in two cases—Biden and Buttigieg—more than $20 million dollars. They also spent a lot, but all of them put many millions of dollars in the bank.

Then next in line you have Delaney, who is a very special case in this race. For Q2, he brought in around $200,000 dollars in donations, but poured $7.75 million dollars of his own money into the campaign. Despite all that, he spent all that money and more, ending up with a net loss of $3.1 million dollars for the quarter.

Now, that doesn’t mean he’s out of the race or anything—it just means he has low fundraising numbers from people other than himself, and he’s spending super-aggressively. Given his personal wealth, that makes sense. He, like many of the lower-polling candidates, needs to show good polling numbers, good donor numbers, and decent name recognition right now, or he lacks a clear path forward in this race.

Okay, so for me, one of the big questions was about the fundraising for O’Rourke, who was among that top-six group in the first debates. If you’ll recall, there were six candidates in a “2 percent polling and up” box, and fourteen in the other box. And O’Rourke is the only one in that upper-tier box who didn’t pre-release his Q2 numbers. Well, here’s why. He raised $3.6 million dollars, which is a dramatic drop from $9.4 million dollars in Q1. That is very bad—this is a candidate who raised $6 million dollars in his FIRST DAY, so to make around half of that in 91 days is…well, it’s rough. To makes thing worse, O’Rourke outspent what he raised, spending $5.3 million dollars in Q2, leaving him with $5.2 million dollars in the bank.

Now, O’Rourke is far from alone in the group in terms of spending money. Here’s a list of candidates who spent more than they raised, in declining order of how much they raised: Delaney, Booker, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Inslee, Yang, Gillibrand, Gabbard, Williamson, Hickenlooper, and Messam. That’s 11 candidates.

Okay, a few more folks who stand out. One is Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who had previously announced his $3.5 million dollar raise. That’s a good number for a low-polling candidate, and is right on the heels of O’Rourke, though it DOES include a $700,000 dollar transfer from his Senate campaign account. Also, Bennet didn’t spend much, and managed to add $2.2 million dollars to his cash on hand for the quarter.

Meanwhile, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, by contrast, brought in $1.2 million dollars, spent $1.7 million dollars, and currently has just over $800,000 bucks in cash on hand. There were only three candidates who raised less than a million dollars—Ohio Representative Tim Ryan, who brought in $890,000 dollars, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel with $209,000 dollars, and Mayor Wayne Messam, who brought in just $50,000 dollars. Oh, and technically California Representative Eric Swalwell also would’ve been in that club—he raised $878,000 dollars from donors, but dropped out of the race to pursue his House seat again.

And that is all for Money Talk today. If you’re curious about a given candidate, check that Politico money link in the show notes and get ready to scroll down.

Biden suggests a push-up contest against Trump

I’ll keep this one brief, but I think it’s worth noting because your pals around the water-cooler might bring this one up.

In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning, Joe Biden suggested a strategy for defeating President Trump, should the two appear on a debate stage together. That strategy? Seeing who can do more push-ups. Yes, really. Well, yeah, he was kind of joking, but also, I think Biden really would love to do this. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Reading here from a Washington Post summary by John Wagner:

“…he was pressed on whether he is tough enough to stand up to Trump given what many saw as a lackluster performance in the first Democratic debate.
Biden acknowledged that some people could have been left with that impression but said he has never had trouble taking on anyone before. That led co-host Mika Brzezinski to ask what he would do if Trump raised the issues of Biden’s age and mental state.
“I’d say, ‘C’mon Donald, c’mon man. How many push-ups do you want to do here, pal?’” Biden said. “I mean, jokingly. . . . C’mon, run with me, man.”
Biden then relayed that he typically runs along the route when he participates in parades, including a recent one on the Fourth of July in Independence, M[issouri].”

Well, okay then. Here’s a quick reminder, Biden is just three years older than Trump. At press time, I had no count on how many push-ups either man can perform while wearing a suit.

An update on that whole climate-focused debate thing

Back on June 5th, the DNC told Washington Governor Jay Inslee that it would not hold a single-issue debate on the topic of climate change. I discussed this on the show on June 6th, titled “The Climate Debate,” if you want to go get more details on that. The short version is, no DNC climate debate, AND the DNC says if a candidate participates in somebody else’s climate debate, they will no longer be invited to any DNC debates.

Ever since then, a variety of candidates and progressive groups have continued asking for such a debate. For instance, the Sunrise Movement staged sit-ins spanning multiple days at the DNC’s Washington headquarters, demanding a climate debate.

On July 2nd, Dino Grandoni reported in the Washington Post that the DNC was considering the possibility of either a climate debate or a climate “forum” sponsored by an outside group. The issue is working its way through the DNC system, and may be voted on inside the DNC at a meeting in August. Meanwhile, another proposal is on the table. Reading from the Post here:

“At the same time, the executive committee also wants the resolutions panel to consider another proposal, from South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson, to hold what it calls a “climate forum” instead. Such an event would be akin to an abortion rights forum held last month by the political arm of Planned Parenthood, at which 2020 contenders gave speeches but did not directly debate each other.
The discussion on Saturday was civil, with every member who spoke emphatic that climate change needs to be a top Democratic concern, according to attendees on both sides of the climate-debate issue.”

Overall, this issue has been complex. For one thing, most of the primary candidates broadly agree on the issue of climate change. So it’s hard to imagine a meaningful debate in which every participant shares a similar core opinion, but the difference is about the magnitude and relative priority of the issue, or perhaps the finer points of really specific policies.

If you wanted to have a single-issue debate in which the candidates had major, obvious differences on the merits, you’d have it on health care. So those opposed to this debate have essentially said, look, why not have some kind of event in which the candidates can simply DISCUSS this stuff, not DEBATE it, because they largely agree?

Enter Gizmodo, which proposed just such an event in a blog post. They announced a “presidential climate summit” to be held on September 23rd, 2019 in New York City. The event would be co-sponsored by The New Republic, along with backing from a variety of environmental groups. Great, problem solved! Right?

Well, then things got weird.

The New Republic published an article by Dale Peck that referred to Mayor Pete Buttigieg as “Mary Pete” and offered a detailed critique of Buttigieg’s sexuality and how that identity is presented within the context of his presidential campaign. After public outcry, this article was quickly yanked from the site, and The New Republic ultimately backed out of the climate summit entirely because the incident had caused a bunch of other groups to back out as well.

That summit is apparently still scheduled to happen, but a WHOLE BUNCH OF environmental groups have canceled their participation because of that New Republic incident. Reading from an “update” posted to Gizmodo by Maddie Stone:

“The initial reaction to our announcement of the forum was widespread and almost entirely positive, reaffirming our belief that the American public is hungry for an in-depth climate change discussion. We are currently seeking additional media partners who share our values to help foster a robust dialogue.
In reaction to The New Republic article, the League of Conservation Voters, NRDC Action Fund, Earthjustice Action, and the Center for American Progress Action Fund have decided to remove themselves from the event. We will provide additional updates as the situation unfolds.”

Yeah. So, the issue of a climate debate, or a climate forum, or some other variant, has gotten far more complex than it seemed just a month ago. I will, you know, “provide additional updates as the situation unfolds.”

An update on who’s already in the September debates

Last up today, here’s one more update on the September debates. FiveThirtyEight ran a piece by Geoffrey Skelley on Friday last week, crunching the numbers. According to that piece, we still have just five candidates who definitely qualify for September and beyond. Those are:

Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders, and Warren.

Beyond that top five, there are three candidates who meet just the donor threshold, but not the polling threshold. They are:

Castro, O’Rourke, and Yang.

Of that three-person list, O’Rourke actually has THREE polls so he just needs one more poll putting him at 2 percent and he will qualify for the debate—so that seems like a pretty safe bet. Castro and Yang have just one poll right now, so they need three more. That’s probably doable, though it’s a heavier lift than what O’Rourke is contending with.

Okay, and then you have ONE candidate who qualifies based on polling alone—that’s Booker—meaning he just has to get to that 130,000-donor mark and he’s in. He already four polls locked in.

So the wild thing about this is that right now, we have nine candidates who are either qualified or have some clear path to qualify right now for that debate. Then you have a bunch of candidates who meet neither threshold, and in fact all of them except Klobuchar have literally zero polling results that count. That’s gonna be the true problem here, because they will need a total of four new polls putting them at 2% or higher, by the end of August. Klobuchar actually has three such polls already, so if she picks up one more poll and gets a bunch more donors, she’s in.

But still, that gets you to ten candidates total, assuming all five of the folks on the bubble I just mentioned manage to do all the heavy lifting they have to do.

Depending on how you count candidates, there are something like 13 or 14 more candidates who need to make up a ton of ground within the next six weeks. There is no August DNC debate, so these folks have some time to do that, but they’re gonna have to spend a lot of money and work to get their messages out. For those who will appear in the July debate, you can bet they’re working on their quotable lines right now, in the hope that they get some media exposure and then a polling and donor bump. That’s precisely what I’d be doing right now in their situation.

So, stay tuned, as the next six weeks will have a ton of stories about which candidates manage to meet these tough requirements for the September debate. And keep in mind, although that’s currently scheduled to be a two-night affair, it could easily be cut back to one night if just a small number of candidates manage to qualify.